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Leadership in digital transformation – 3 things to consider

Accounts Payable AutomationTrendsBest practicesThought Leadership
Sari Aapola

In a leadership webinar I recently attended, this caught my attention: The future is an ongoing project that has already started, but we still need to find the best practices to navigate it. The present is known to us, but the future is probably mainly an illusion we’ve created in our minds. Moving towards the future, we work in a state of “The Unknown” and must tolerate a lot of uncertainty. New kinds of leadership skills and competencies are required of us to lead our teams through the unknown.

This led me to list 3 things I believe we should consider as leaders amid the digital transformation.

1. We should learn how to experiment

As we struggle to change and improve, we need to try new things and learn from the experiments. A big part of future leadership is about investigation – setting and testing hypotheses, seeing what works and what does not. We have to allow our teams and ourselves to make mistakes because there is a lot to be learned from them.
Creativity and innovation are the bridge between the present and the future, and we can manage the opportunities and the uncertainty through experiments. Part of the learning is analyzing the results through regular “post mortems”, and being open about the results. So, we must dismiss the shame related to failure.

2. Adopting technology requires the support of process innovation and leadership

Already today, we have a huge selection of technologies to choose from. Once we’ve decided to adopt a new tool or other innovation, it’s important to remember that adoption always requires change management. History has shown that implementing technology requires process innovation and strong leadership to support it. For instance, moving from steam engines to electrical was not straightforward, but required that processes and practices changed along with the adoption of new technology.
This is an opportunity. Many times, when new software is acquired, it might feel easier to require it to be fitted to the old processes we’re used to. But, at its best, the new software includes process innovations, and we’d be foolish not to benefit from them. Obviously, this requires strong leadership and change management, helping the teams to navigate to the new and improved way of doing things.

3. New leadership is not for the C-level alone (and it never has been)

A major change we are undergoing in work life is that collaboration becomes more and more important. In today’s complex world, we need a combination of skills and competencies to reach our business goals. Leadership is more about coordination, empowerment, and communication than managing subordinates, and not to forget self-leadership. The skills that leaders need are also skills we all need to become good team members.

In digital transformation, as we lead our troops through many changes, we need “champions”. They would most likely be subject-matter experts on the topic in question. For example, as companies acquire invoice automation, the AP manager and AP clerks are important champions to drive the adoption. But to be successful and help the company benefit from the tool, they need to think outside their box of AP work and consider how they can help the entire personnel adopt the tools and new processes. This is ongoing work. New tools develop and improve with time, and the champions must stay alert. For instance, using the mobile app to review and approve invoices may not be the highest priority for Accounts Payable, but it could be the trigger for the rest of the organization to get excited about the new tool.

One thing’s for sure – we live in the middle of constant change. It can be cumbersome, but learning new ways of working helps us survive and succeed.

About the Author
Sari Aapola
, Dooap's CMO, is a seasoned technology marketer, author on Thought Leadership, speaker and trainer. Choir singer and avid cook.

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